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NFL Picks Week 1: Reviewing Expert Predictions, Vegas Odds and Opening Schedule

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 10, 2015

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) hands off to running back Antonio Andrews (26) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)
James Kenney/Associated Press

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, and the NFL is gearing up for a 2015 season that couldn't come soon enough for both players and fans alike as Week 1 gets kicked off on Thursday Night Football.

While the majority of the league awaits their season debuts on Sunday and Monday, there's no such waiting for the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers. Two of football's most successful franchises will kick things off under the lights at Gillette Stadium, as the Pats ring in their fourth Super Bowl title and attempt to put a complicated offseason behind them.

Fans will only have that lone game to take in Thursday, but come Sunday there will be so much football that some preparation is in order to ensure readiness for the other 15 games. With that said, let's take a closer look into all of the Week 1 lines, as well as predictions from some of Bleacher Report's own National Lead Writers and NFL Analysts.

Week 1 Schedule, Odds and B/R Expert Predictions

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Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. ET

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets

Date/Time (ET)MatchupLineGary Davenport, B/RMike Freeman, B/RMatt Miller, B/R
Sept. 10, 8:30 p.m.Pittsburgh at New EnglandNE (-7)New EnglandNew EnglandNew England
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Indianapolis at BuffaloInd. (-3)IndianapolisIndianapolisIndianapolis
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Green Bay at ChicagoGB (-6.5)Green BayGreen BayGreen Bay
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Kansas City at HoustonHou. (-1)Kansas CityKansas CityHouston
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Carolina at JacksonvilleCar. (-3)CarolinaCarolinaCarolina
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Cleveland at NY JetsNYJ (-3)New YorkNew YorkNew York
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Seattle at St. LouisSea. (-4)SeattleSeattleSeattle
Sept. 13, 1 p.m.Miami at WashingtonMia. (-4)MiamiMiamiMiami
Sept. 13, 4:05 p.m.New Orleans at ArizonaAriz. (-2.5)ArizonaArizonaArizona
Sept. 13, 4:05 p.m.Detroit at San DiegoSD (-3)San DiegoSan DiegoDetroit
Sept. 13, 4:25 p.m.Baltimore at DenverDen. (-4.5)DenverDenverBaltimore
Sept. 13, 4:25 p.m.Cincinnati at OaklandCin. (-3)CincinnatiOaklandCincinnati
Sept. 13, 4:25 p.m.Tennessee at Tampa BayTB (-3)Tampa BayTennesseeTampa Bay
Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m.NY Giants at DallasDal. (-6)New YorkNew YorkDallas
Sept. 14, 7:10 p.m.Philadelphia at AtlantaPhil. (-3)PhiladelphiaAtlantaPhiladelphia
Sept. 14, 10:20 p.m.Minnesota at San FranciscoMin. (-3)MinnesotaMinnesotaMinnesota
OddsShark.com / BleacherReport.com

They are both in similar positions heading into the 2015 season, but the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have a chance to pull themselves up from AFC mediocrity and make an early statement Sunday.

There's no telling what to expect in Cleveland this year, with the offense passing the torch to Josh McCown—for the time being—and looking for backfield formidability behind young and largely unproven backs. McCown has shown an ability to be consistent during stretches, but ESPN's Herm Edwards exercises caution regarding his winning ways, per ESPN Cleveland:

It's not hard to envision a scenario where McCown and the rest of the Browns offense struggles mightily in this matchup. 

The Jets may be a mess offensively as well with quarterback Geno Smith sidelined, but they have a defensive front line that will be pinning their ears back against Cleveland. Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams figure to clog up running lanes, while the secondary of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie should make things difficult for McCown vertically.

In a battle of two hapless offenses, don't be surprised if the superior defense prevails.

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

The Jeff Fisher project in St. Louis has come along slowly but surely, and it enters 2015 with some real progress needing to be made. The campaign doesn't begin with ease, as they welcome the two-time reigning NFC champions to town.

Early struggles nearly doomed the Seattle Seahawks last season when they started off 3-3, but the team finished on fire, winning nine of their final 10 regular-season games before falling to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. They may be somewhat depleted in Week 1 without a star safety in the fold, as ESPN's Josina Anderson shared:

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

However, that's not an area that should concern Seattle very much. Their secondary should still be fine in Week 1 with plenty of star power going up against Rams quarterback Nick Foles as he gets accustomed to a new offense with fewer playmakers.

The Rams have enough formidability up front on defense to limit Marshawn Lynch's rushing ability, but the X-factor still remains in Russell Wilson's ability to escape the pocket and extend plays. For all of St. Louis' defensive skill, they could struggle on the perimeter against Wilson's playmaking.

Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How often is it that a battle between a pair of 2-14 teams from the previous year is one of the most interesting matchups of the opening weekend? Well, it's also not often that it entails two rookie quarterbacks attempting to pick up a hapless franchise.

That's the onus being put on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans, respectively. The No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks will begin their NFL careers against one another Sunday afternoon.

The one-on-one matchup is all that many folks want to talk about regarding this game, but it's only the beginning of it. On top of that, they won't even be battling each other, as Mariota shared with the Titans' official Twitter account:

For what it's worth, Mariota has looked considerably more composed and comfortable than his rookie counterpart through the preseason. While Winston has struggled to get rid of the ball and find receivers, Mariota went a strong 21-for-30 with 326 yards in the preseason.

That's not where this battle will be won, but rather in the trenches defensively. The Titans have a superior offensive line that should be able to handle that test, and they also have a quarterback that is more capable of evading pressure.